Folic acid may help reduce blood arsenic levels

November 14th, 2007 - 1:49 am ICT by admin  

Arsenic is naturally present in some aquifers used for drinking, and it is currently a significant public health problem in at least 70 countries, including several developing countries and also parts of the US.

Several previous studies have linked chronic arsenic exposure to increased risk for skin, liver and bladder cancers, skin lesions, cardiovascular disease, and other adverse health outcomes.

In the current study, the researchers have found that treatment with 400 micrograms a day of folic acid, the US recommended dietary allowance, may help reduce total blood arsenic levels by 14 per cent.

The researchers have found that the deficiency of folate, a B vitamin found in leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, beans and whole grains, is very common in Bangladesh, where the study has been conducted.

“Folic acid supplementation enhanced the detoxification of arsenic to a form that is more readily excreted in urine,” said Dr. Mary Gamble, assistant professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School, and lead author of the study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

She revealed that folic acid works by increasing the detoxification of arsenic in the body, which leads to the conversion of the body’s more toxic metabolite, or methylarsonic (MMA) acid, into a form that could more easily be excreted from the body. In this way, she said, the levels of arsenic found in the blood gets reduced.

“Clearly the first priority should focus on mitigation efforts to lower arsenic exposure. But this very exciting and significant finding implies that folic acid has therapeutic potential for people who have been exposed to arsenic,” said Dr. Gamble.

“Although additional studies are needed, the results of this study suggest that a simple, low-cost nutritional intervention may help to prevent some of the long-term health consequences associated with arsenic exposure for the many populations at risk,” she added.

The study has also shown that folic acid supplementation may help reduce body stores of arsenic even after the exposure has been reduced.

The researchers, however, admit that further researcher is required to determine the optimal dose and duration of treatment, besides studies that include health outcomes. (ANI)

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